Various contributions to an online, collaborative knowledge base
|Due:||Every week, Weeks 5–14|
|Length:||500 words equiv.|
In any class it is good to have a balance between assignments where students demonstrate how their thinking is developing and assignments where the goal is to create a finished product, like an essay or a term paper. I used to call the first kind “process assignments” and the second kind “product assignments.” Class discussion and weekly reflections are ones where you get a grade based on the process and how much you put into it. A major essay is graded as a complete work.
If you think about it, many things we do in class are more like gifts we give in a system of total prestations. When you offer your own ideas and respond to what other people think, you are giving the class a gift of helping them to develop their own ideas. You receive the same kind of gift when people talk about their ideas and ask you questions about your thinking. This is not just an exchange either. It’s our share and our contribution to the common knowledge of the class. Essays, by contrast, are alienated from the conditions of their own production and treated as fetishes, a lot like commodities. In this class, you will be graded on the gifts you give and the commodities you produce. The gifts are your effort, engagement, attention to other people, and willingness to take risks and try new things. The commodities are the products of this kind of effort.
Starting in Week 5, 15% of your final grade is based on all of the gifts you make to an online, collaborative knowledge base on our class’s Canvas wiki. You can edit any page that has an Edit button on the top and even make new pages. Each individual student should make a contribution every week to a shared stock of knowledge and ideas in the form of a wiki on the class Canvas site. If you make several different kinds of contributions to the knowledge base every week from Week 5 to Week 14, then you get full credit in this assignment. You can add any kind of contribution as long as you think it helps us all understand social theory better. There’s even a page entitled “Cultures of Covid” you can edit and extend.
Authoring and editing a collaborative document is not just putting stuff in. We all have to read, think about, extend, edit, and comment on what other people say so that we work to a bigger and better collective of common knowledge. So every week you should do at least two different kinds of things. Look at the page on the key tasks of collaborative writing as a guide.
Use the assigned roles for seminar discussion as a starting point and go from there. For instance if you were previously assigned the role to ask questions, then instead you can spend that week editing and making comments on what other people have written, and then see where that leads you and do more. The next week, you can add citations and find new sources for the class bibliography, and then see what you think of next and do more.
Collaborative writing is academic writing, and we should treat it seriously. While what we are doing is drafting and writing notes, we should not violate the norms of scholarship. You will lose points for this.
If you quote something, you have to cite it and add the reference to the bibliography. When you comment on someone’s ideas, be constructive in your criticisms. If you delete something, replace it with what you think is better. (All versions of the pages are stored so deleting does not permanently remove anything.) Do you own work. Don’t let other people do everything or speak for you. Don’t speak on behalf of other people or appoint yourself as the main author.